Seattle is the anti-fashion capital of the world.

On September 22, Don published a story that made this bold and baffling claim: “It’s time to admit that Seattle is a style capital.” Previous seattle times Writer Andrew Matson wrote this article, which described the progress of our local look from grunge to what The cut dubbed “gorpcore” in 2017. The impact of this trend on the fashion world is, Matson argues, considerable.

He writes:

And so we see grunge today on rich NBA players and trendy TikTok guys, in their faded jeans and plaid flannels. And we see gorp in circles of cool people all over America, including style icons like Frank Ocean and Drake, who choose to wear protective, padded garments when they could literally have any jacket in the world. (And fun fact: Drake’s Scorpion merchandise was designed by Seattle artist Andrew Durgin-Barnes.)

But Seattle has been, still is, and probably always will be the anti-fashion capital of the world. In this regard, it even beats Portland, OR and Vancouver, BC.

Ours is a city whose mode of presentation is not style at all. It is true that having no style is a style, as America’s foremost cultural critic, the late Susan Sontag, pointed out in a literary essay. But in another famous essay, “Notes on Camp,” Sontag, inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s “In Praise of Cosmetics,” correctly identified the essence of style as artificiality. The closer a person’s appearance is to the real, the natural, the useful, the further it is from the true meaning and mode of fashion. (“[T]the essence of [style] it is his love for the unnatural: for artifice and exaggeration….”)

But this is exactly what the Seattle style is all about: a mode that doesn’t break with its natural surroundings but is, in fact, one with it. Think now of Henri Bergson’s élan vital theory. Both brilliant and outspoken commentators have missed the key point of this theory. They have identified it with the determination, refuted by the famous experiments of the 19th century microbiologist Louis Pasteur, that what differentiates dead matter from living matter is a special force specific to the latter. This was not Bergon’s meaning. What he had in mind, instead, was drawn from another science, that of thermodynamics, in particular from his second law, the law that directs, as far as we know, the arrow of time.

Life, according to this view, “is not characterized as a spiritualistic ‘life force’, but rather as an organizing trend opposed to the entropic degradation trend.” Through the use of free energy, in our case the energy provided by the sun, life is able to reverse the natural movement of matter towards ever greater disorder, towards a state of rest, a state of high probability. (Life is very ordered and therefore improbable.)

Now if you ever landed on a strange planet and saw a river running down a hill, you’d know right away that it’s alive. A dead river is naturally swept down by its forced search for a resting place. The nature of the universe is laziness. Seattle’s fashion scene is much more like a river on our planet than one we might find in a fantastic world.

Seattle fashion offers little resistance to nature. It’s too impractical to be too fancy, which is always super artificial, always working against the forces of nature. We give up and put on our best for the rain and all those short days.

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